I’m going to get one thing out of the way right off the bat; I can’t give you a full list of all businesses and website URLs blocked from using Facebook’s ad program. The reason for that is two-fold. First, it’s a huge list. Just imagine trying to list out every website Google has removed from the search index for being a spammer, and you get some idea. Second, it’s always changing. Changes in policy and changes in guidelines put formerly good businesses in the doghouse, while changes in action from the business side result in a business being blocked.
That said, what I can give you is a rundown of what is typically blocked and why. Here’s a hint: it’s almost all for violations in advertising guidelines.
This is a big one, and it was the talk of the marketing world for the first couple months of the year.
There are hundreds of dating sites out there, ranging from the big eHarmony and Match.com giants to the much smaller businesses. Facebook’s advertising guidelines have this to say about dating sites:
- Ads for adult friend finders or dating sites with a sexual emphasis are not permitted.
- Ads for other online dating services are only allowed with prior authorization from Facebook, and must adhere to specific rules.
What are those specific rules?
- Images may not be provocative, imply nudity, be sexually suggestive, show excessive cleavage or skin, or be otherwise inappropriate.
- Images cannot be blurry or pixilated.
- Images cannot be selfies.
- You cannot target users with a relationship status other than Single or Unspecified.
- You must set gender targeting to men or women, not both or another option.
- You must set age targeting to 18+.
- Additional language factors are involved as well, including no vulgarity or profanity, no misrepresentation of the company or the service, no spam formatting or grammar, and no direct references to users.
This results in a very limited number of dating sites that can advertise on Facebook. Unfortunately for small dating services, this generally works out to the old, long-established giants. No small new services are getting in. Additionally, any service promising a “mail order bride” is allowed.
A second category of companies blocked from advertising on Facebook includes various illegal services.
The biggest iteration of this right now is the marijuana industry. Several states across the nation have been legalizing various forms of pot, but Facebook – as well as Google, Twitter and other sites – is blocking those businesses from running advertising.
There’s a good reason for this, of course. Even if a state legalizes the drug, there are still issues with federal enforcement. Because Facebook is a global company, it has to obey national, global and regional laws, as well as anything in between. It’s simply easier for Facebook to block all mentions of the drug from their ads program than it is to try to restrict those ads to geographic areas that legalizes it. That, and there’s always the chance that the federal government could get involved and make things difficult for everyone.
This, of course, extends to other illegal services. Any illegal or controlled substance, and in fact just about any pharmaceutical at all, is blocked from using Facebook ads. Pharmacy spam is one of the most common forms of spam, and Facebook doesn’t want to open the floodgates.
Likewise, businesses selling illegal services are blocked. You won’t be able to advertise your bittorrent tracker, regardless of the supposed legality of the content on it. You won’t be able to advertise your shop selling guns of any sort, up to and including bb guns or paintball guns. You can’t sell alcohols that are banned, foods that are banned or services that break laws. No dog fighting, no paid assassinations, nothing like that.
Conditionally Restricted Content
There are a lot of businesses and services that, while not outright blocked from the program, have to jump through a lot of hoops to get their ads approved.
- Adult products are heavily restricted. No pornography of any kind is allowed, and ads for any adult product cannot show nudity, adult toys, or suggestive activities. Sexual wellness products and contraceptives can get a pass, as long as the ad passes acceptable language and image guidelines.
- Alcohol is heavily restricted and limited. You can’t advertise it to people under the age of legality in a given geographic area. You can’t target it towards pregnant women or new mothers. You can’t negatively portray sobriety or abstinence from alcohol. You can’t glorify drunkenness or intoxication. You can’t tie alcohol to violence. You can see the full list here.
- Financial services are somewhat restricted. Payday loans and shady lending services are blocked, as are misrepresentations of financial services. Gambling services are very restricted, with anything involving actual money more heavily restricted than “for fun” gambling apps.
- Fitness and health ads aren’t as heavily restricted, but you still can’t make finite claims or use before-and-after comparison pictures.
- Tobacco is subject to national laws regarding the advertisement of tobacco products, which generally amounts to “you can’t.”
- You can’t promote the sale of spy cams or surveillance equipment, though you can promote private detectives.
Facebook will also review every ad on a case by case basis, though breaking a guideline with a specific ad won’t get your business blocked from the ads service entirely, unless your business is trying to sell something that’s otherwise blocked by the guidelines.
There are a number of other niche businesses Facebook doesn’t like, though the list is always changing. Clickfarm services or services trying to sell meaningless Facebook metrics or fake followers are blocked, for example.
If your ads are flagged as spam, or if your business receives too many spam flags, Facebook will come in and review your business as well. This can occasionally lead to a block from ads, or a ban from Facebook as a whole. Most of the time, it just removes the given ad or post that was flagged.